Daicon IV Production Report

Despite being a legendarily amateur production, the Daicon III Opening Animation reverberated through fan circles of the era. In addition to impressing no less than Osamu Tezuka himself (despite discretely pointed out his characters were noticeably absent), it also received professional press coverage, particularly in the magazine Animec. At the time, Animec was praised for its “in-depth analyses and large proportion of reader-contribution pages,” and an early article in the magazine introduced the Daicon III Opening Animation to fans that didn’t attend the convention.

Animec also published the following tongue-and-cheek production report in the magazine’s 31st volume, dated August 1983  – the same month that the 22nd Annual Japanese Sci-Fi Convention was held in Osaka. That convention is remembered as Daicon IV.

Toshio Okada and Yasuhiro Takeda –who had helped organize both conventions and were among those that founded GAINAX and General Products– penned this bizarre take on the production of the Daicon IV Opening Animation short. While short on hard data, it conveys the amateurish yet dedicated atmosphere of the production. Despite some cheap shots directed at director Hiroyuki Yamaga (as well as producer and co-writer of the piece, Okada), it ignores the fact that Yamaga actually had the most professional experience on staff alongside animator Hideaki Anno.

The Daicon III Opening Animation had been so impressive that the three primary staff members responsible for it were recruited by Artland, Noburo Ishiguro’s legendary studio that was then ramping up production on a new TV show called Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Similar to Yamaga, Anno, and Daicon III character designer Takami Akai, Macross staff had recent amateurs-turned-pro in major roles; series co-creator and mechanical designer Shoji Kawamori and character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto. While Yamaga studied under Ishiguro and Anno honed his already impressive animating chops, Akai reportedly left the production after learning that Mikimoto would be handling character design duties. All three would reunite the next year in Osaka for the production of the Daicon IV Opening Animation.

Working on Macross seems to have helped, as the Daicon IV short is an altogether more polished, sharper, and professional bit of animation. Ishiguro’s tutelage no doubt helped Yamaga’s efforts to oversee the ambitious production, but Anno’s experience on Macross shines through in a much more pronounced way. Scenes of the short film’s exploding city would have looked right at home in Macross, which saw more than its fair share of destroyed metropolises over its 36 episode run.

Thanks as always to supremely generous Laika for translating the following article. Footnotes are a mix of his comments on the translation and my own.

Animec, Vol. 31
August 1983
Translated by Laika

General Products Hanzeu Ki

Toshio Okada
Yasuhiro Takeda

Chapter 1
The Producer Didn’t Really Have Much of a Clue about the Budget

Okada was getting fired up. This anime would make his name known throughout the world! He was so close to reaching the status of BNF1 in the universe of SF! If he could just get this anime completed, surely the Nebula Award and even the Japanese SF Grand Prize would no longer be just a dream. He felt like he should take a look over the submission agreement for Trieste2 just in case.

This is what it means to count your eggs before they hatch and get ahead of yourself. Open up the dictionary in his head, and you’ll find this printed for the definition of “producer”:

producer [pruh-doo-ser, –dyoo-] (noun)

  1. One who profits, becomes famous, and engages in tax evasion
  2. Example: Nishi**** Yoshi****3

The director, Yamaga, didn’t exactly have a more sensible head on him either. Let’s take a look inside.

director [dih-rek-ter, dahy-] (noun)

  1. Becomes famous, well known, recognized everywhere4
  2. Example: Yoshiyuki Tomino, Steven Spielberg

What a complete disaster to have these two lead the project. They immediately got ahead of themselves, ordered some tuxedos, and booked the central gallery at the ultra luxurious hotel “Utopia” in Osaka for a press conference.

Okada: I’m gonna make loads of money on this anime.
Yamaga: I’m going to be famous.
Okada: I’m gonna make so much money that I’ll even be sending my underwear to get dry cleaned.
Yamaga: I’m going to be so famous that they’ll sell buns named after me, and tour buses will stop in front of my house.

Director Yamaga and animator Akai.

And so the entire press conference consisted of this kind of shtick5. However, that wasn’t the end of it. They continued to fool around when it came to the preparations for the project too. To begin, they needed to purchase the paint they would be using for the anime. But for some reason, they ordered 250 different colors! People say that even Disney only uses around 170 colors for their films, so what was the point of buying 250 different colors for an anime that was only a few minutes long…? If it wasn’t clear before, then it should be obvious that these two were absolutely clueless when it came to anything related to anime after they spent the majority of the budget on purchasing the paint.

Yamaga: Okada, we’re in a jam. We’ve got to purchase cels as well in order to make an anime.
Okada: Cels? Can’t we just use plastic wrap or somethin’?

Amazingly, they did really consider if they could use plastic wrap6. Fortunately, the idea was abandoned once an issue so obvious that it puts the idiocy of the whole debacle on full display came up: It was hard to trace on plastic wrap. But they really didn’t have any budget left at all after they had to buy the cels.

Hideaki Anno’s Daicon powered suit.


Chapter 2
8 X 2 Doesn’t Equal 16

The incompetence of the two also extended to any ideas that were proposed for the project.

Staff A: For the soundtrack of the anime, how about something hard rock?
Okada: What’s hard rock?
Yamaga: Like Finger 5.7
Okada: Oh, how’s about Tenma Rumiko?8
Yamaga: That’s pop.
Okada: Whada ‘bout Nishikawa Mineko?9
Yamaga: That’s rockabilly, obviously!

Thankfully, we were able to avoid a Finger 5 song thanks to the adamant protests of the staff. An incident like this also happened:

Okada: Hey, director, ya think you can make it on 16mm?
Yamaga: Where do you think we have it in the budget for that!?
Okada: We’ll shoot the left and right halves of each frame on 8mm and then we’ll scotch tape it together later. Scotch tape is transparent, so it won’t be visible. 8 x 2 = 16, so that’s how we’ll make it 16mm!
Yamaga: … [silence]
Yamaga: Okada, you’re a genius! You’re right, 8 x 2 does equal 16!

Nevermind Okada, but to call Yamaga an idiot at this point would just be cruel. After all, he had racked up a number of unbelievable achievements that serve as testaments to his intelligence. Just a few years ago, he tried holding his breath in order to stop his hiccups, forgot to resume breathing, and passed out. Apparently, he scored an IQ of 40 on his middle school intelligence test as well. Because of that, he’s easily swayed by any sort of persuasion that makes use of numbers.

Chapter 3
Low Budget Anime Is Nothing but Plain

The Morinomiya anime studio in Osaka is called “the tako room”10 by the staff. It’s not because they get locked in there and forced to work, but it’s since all they eat every day is takoyaki. The workload is heavy, and the pay is little. There’s no time at all to go out to eat. That’s why someone will always say “Hey, somebody go and bring back some takoyaki.” If you’re still hungry after that, you’ll just have to fill yourself up with water.

Then night comes, and that’s quite miserable as well. Let’s go over the different levels of extravagance so you have a better idea of exactly how bad it is.

Luxury: Sleeping in the only bed there.
Deluxe: Sleeping on top of the animation desk.
Simple: Sleeping on top of three chairs in a line.
Plain: Sleeping on top of a cardboard box spread across the linoleum floor.
Economy: Sleeping in the locker.
Other: Falling asleep at your desk while in the middle of work with your pencil still in your hand.

Also, pretty much all of the animators wear a General Products t-shirt. The fabric is quite nice for the price, and all of the staff are so grateful to have such a wonderful t-shirt keeping them feeling snug and comfy for just 2300 yen! They would thank god in the heavens every day with tears streaming down their face, point their feet in the direction of Momodani11, and go to sleep.

Animators hard at work and those 250 colors.

Chapter 4
We Still Don’t Have Enough Staff

To the person that’s reading this article, if you live in Osaka, have free time, are hardworking as hell, and like coloring cels, then how would you like to join our staff for the opening!?

The grinning face on Okada as he wrote the cloying text trying to coax people into joining sent shivers down Takeda’s spine.

I’m tellin’ ya, it happens all the time. Hyahaha…

(This is all you wrote!? You missed the deadline by 10 days! <Ma>12)

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  1. Big Name Fan, something like a “fandom celebrity” in classic sci-fi fandom
  2. The International Science Fiction Film Festival, held from 1963-1982 in Trieste, Italy
  3. Likely a reference to Yamato producer Nishizaki Yoshinobu, known for his illegal entanglements.
  4. In the original text, this line was repeated three times in kanji, hiragana, and katakana.
  5. lit.: manzai
  6. The Daicon III Opening Animation actually did use vinyl sheets for cels instead of acetate, although this likely isn’t a reference to that cost-cutting decision.
  7. An Okinawan pop group from the ’70s comprised of five siblings.
  8. An idol singer.
  9. An enka singer.
  10. Tako rooms were accommodations for laborers typically tasked with difficult work. The modern equivalent would be something like a cram room where people are locked in until they finish a task or job.
  11. The Osaka location of General Products was located in Momodani.
  12. It’s not clear who or what “Ma” (ま) is referring to. Possibly the magazine’s editor, Masanobu Komaki?